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Babies Born Near Natural Gas Flaring Sites are 50% More Likely to be Premature

Recent studies have linked air pollution from the burning of excess natural gas to increased birth rate of premature babies. Many mothers that live near natural gas flaring sites are from low-income and minority communities, signally the environmental injustices linked deeply to these issues. In addition, there are few health-protective regulations that help control the high level of flaring that takes place across the country. Read More
Photo Credit: Trudy E. Bell

News Archive

Toxic Tuesday: Creosote

Creosote is a large mixture of chemicals that is used as a wood preservative in the United States, as well as for roofing, aluminum smelting, and road paving. Houston’s Fifth Ward has been pinpointed as a Cancer Cluster: an area that has a “greater than expected number of cancer cases,” largely due to the community’s exposure to creosote from the Union Pacific railroad site in Houston’s 5th Ward.
Creosote is released into soil and water systems and may take many years to break down. Due to groundwater contamination, creosote can make its way into drinking water systems, putting entire communities at risk for exposure. Creosote may cause irritation of the respiratory tract and can lead to stomach pains and burning of the throat and mouth. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the EPA have determined that creosote is likely a carcinogen, meaning that exposure to the chemical can likely cause cancer.
CHEJ has been working with the Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA) to help the communities of Houston’s 5th Ward further understand the extent of the contamination and what different health investigations can do to propel THEA’s goals of raising awareness of their exposure to creosote. CHEJ and THEA have been hosting informational Zoom town halls about Houston’s 5th Ward Cancer Cluster. You can learn more about Houston’s Cancer Cluster by watching Fault Lines’ mini documentary or by visiting THEA’s Facebook page to learn and listen in on their past and future town hall meetings or learn how to get involved.
To learn more about creosote, click here.

Homepage News Archive

Environmental Groups Win Over New Coke Oven Regulation

Coke is a type of fuel that is converted from coal and made to produce steel. Environmental non-profits, including PennFuture filed a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming that they were not doing enough to regulate coke ovens under the Clean Air Act. Recently, the EPA admitted that they failed to properly regulate parts of the coke production process through the use of coke ovens. Read More.
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Backyard Talk

Behind the Dakota Access, Keystone XL, Atlantic Coast Pipeline Wins

By Hamsavardhini “Anu” Thirunarayanan, Intern
This past Sunday, July 5, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy declared that they would cancel their planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline, despite the $3.4 billion investment and just 20 days after securing a 7-2 U.S. Supreme Court vote allowing them to build the pipeline below the Appalachian Trail. Fierce opposition from communities across North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia are overjoyed by this victory.
The next day, federal judge James Boasberg ordered the closure and emptying of the Dakota Access Pipeline pending an environmental review, which is a generally unprecedented resolution for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their lengthy struggle against the oil project. Later that Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused the Trump administration’s emergency bid to allow the Keystone XL pipeline development to move forward while environmental concerns similar to the Dakota Access Pipeline are being resolved.
Environmental organizations all across the country are ecstatic. Kelly Martin, the director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuel campaign stated “A new era upon us—one for clean energy, and one where the risks of fossil fuel infrastructure are increasingly exposed.” “The era of multibillion dollar investment in fossil fuel infrastructure is over,” said Jan Hasselman of the environmental group Earthjustice and attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
There are two main reasons for such optimism:

  1. The energy industry is grappling with the economic downturns of COVID-19, which has aggravated the already decreasing demand for oil and gas. Falling oil prices make the financial case for new pipelines even more complicated.
  2. The government has made a grave error by speeding through the National Environmental Policy Act process, neglecting the thorough environmental analysis for many of the current pipelines as mandated by law. This could allow for more litigation wins against other pipeline projects that communities are actively renouncing.

We could very well be witnessing the moment in time that marks the downturn of the oil industry. However, it is important to note that the fight is far from over. The Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline operations have only been halted, and they could easily be allowed to continue after the environmental review process is officially complete. Also, though the Keystone XL pipeline development has been halted, other pipelines that were under “Nationwide Permit 12” have been allowed to continue by the U.S. Supreme Court. This decision is overturning the cancellation ruled by a lower court federal judge Brian Morris. In addition, Energy Transfer (Dakota Access’s pipeline owner) refuses to accept the court demand. Instead, it’s continuing to schedule oil transport with its customers for August. Above all, even if the overall Republican administration is dealt a large blow with the cancellation of all new pipelines, there is no guarantee that oil will become a thing of the past—after all, Biden is also a top recipient of the oil & gas industry (though he has pledged to not reissue the Keystone permit if elected).
Despite grandiose statements made by various figures of large environmental organizations, to gain a true victory in this fight for their land and lives, there is much more to come for which the Sioux Nation needs to be prepared. For now though, hopefully these communities are taking a moment to rejoice their wins.
Photo by: Michael Nigro/Pacific Press, via LightRocket, via Getty Images

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60+ Environmental Justice Groups Call for Action and Equity in ‘Sacrifice Zones’

60+ environmental justice leaders and organizations are calling for action and equity for their ‘Sacrifice Zone’ communities. They released an open letter calling for “an immediate and sustained response to inequities causing Covid-19 to infect and kill a disproportionate number of people subjected to systemic racism and the denial of self-determination throughout the United States.” COVID-19 has exacerbated the equities throughout society, including unequal accessibility to health care and the industry and pollution that impacts mostly low-income and minority communities. Read More
Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Homepage News Archive

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Canceled

WE DID IT. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is CANCELED. 

It was the grassroots effort from North Carolina to West Virginia that brought the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to a screeching halt.  

CHEJ worked with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and a network of environmental activists and longtime African American residents who joined forces to stop the pipeline and the compressor station in several historically Black communities. One historically Black community of Union Hill, VA can trace their lineage to slave ancestors and freedmen who settled there after the Civil War. In this community CHEJ and others held a United Nations Human Rights Tribunal to provide the evidence to stop the destruction of the area. 

In North Carolina, it was sweet potato farmers who stood together and said no to the pipeline and the compressor stations.  Community leaders along a 367 mile stretch from North Carolina to West Virginia joined together using the same facts, narratives, information and networks, which was key to creating the pressure to stop the pipeline.

BREDL led the charge, organizing the tour of towns along the way. They educated, organized and connected small rural communities with one another to create a bond and powerful bridge to stop the pipeline proposals where ever they were suggested. Read More

Homepage News Archive

New Report Indicates that Most US Federally Funded Housing is in Close Proximity to Hazardous Waste Sites

A new report released by Earthjustice, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and faculty at the University of Chicago’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic and Columbia University’s Health Justice Advocacy Clinic estimated that 77,000 people living in federally assisted housing in the US are at risk of being poisoned by toxic contamination. The report, Poisonous Homes: The Fight for Environmental Justice in Federally Assisted Housing comes as the Trump administration continues rolling back many environmental regulations involving the environmental impact analysis of large-scale industrial projects. Read More
Photo by: Scott Olson, Getty Images

Backyard Talk

Racial Inequities: From Medical Care to Pollution

By: Julie Silverman, Summer Communications Intern
The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, and far too many other Black Americans have brought racial injustices to light in all spheres of life, specifically in terms of police brutality. However, racial disparities, specifically involving Black individuals have continued to pervade society in a multitude of ways including spheres of education, pollution, health care, housing, and the impacts of climate change.
Toxic waste dump sites and factories have been known to disproportionately impact minority and low-income communities, specifically Black ones, skyrocketing the risks for certain cancers and illnesses.
Air pollution from industrial facilities and highways surrounding Black communities have also burdened them with higher incidences of asthma, risks to overall health and other respiratory illnesses.
Climate change and increasing temperatures have a disproportionate impact on those who cannot afford air conditioning in their homes and live in extremely hot places. Black individuals and families often live in these regions.
Black mothers also tend to have dramatically decreased access to medical care and oftentimes receive unequal levels of treatment when receiving care.
The compounding inequities that Black Americans continue to face are unacceptable. The combination of the disproportionate impact of air pollution, climate change, pollution and unequal health coverage greatly risks the health and wellbeing of Black Americans. Studies discussed in a recent New York Times article have shown that these impacts have posed extremely large risks specifically on Black mothers, which can lead to an increased likelihood of having premature, underweight, and stillborn babies. In other words, infants are being largely impacted by racial injustices involving the color of their skin before they are even born.
In order to truly comprehend racial injustices faced by Black Americans, we must be sure to understand how the many different spheres of life are involved. The process for racial justice is one that cannot be done immediately, but one that is being largely progressed by the work of many activists and community leaders.
Photo by: Eye for Ebony on Unsplash